Will Black’s brilliant book Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires is absolutely essential reading if you want to stop being shocked every day some Establishment figure or powerful organization does something disgusting. Of course they do terrible things – they are psychopaths. It’s their job. Do you condemn every time you see a lion kill an antelope?
If a small number of people will always be at the psychopath or sociopath range of the spectrum then the important consideration is why do the rest of us permit their like to access positions of power from which they can inflict more damage? Why was Jimmy Savile able to indulge unhindered in his sick, predatory behaviour for a period of 60 years? There is little chance that the many at the BBC, charities, police and Westminster who actually knew about his crimes would condone what he did? I am relatively certain most would have been quite sickened. But they did not seek to stop him either. Why?
Could it be that psychopaths with their single-mindedness and drive are actually useful weapons for many of us? Surely his unique publicity attracting presence boosted careers of many TV and charity managers? And apparently pedophiles are useful in politics – easy for the party whip to keep in line. Most people have doubts over their decisions, what actions to take, morality, right from wrong, the meaning of life, whether there is a God. A psychopath can short circuit much of this: does his current action bring them closer to or further from more power over others or their chosen fetish? Life for them can be much more black and white, can contain that admired ability to make quick authoritative decisions instead of the infinite shades of grey that the rest of us poor suckers struggle under. Hence useful psychopaths can assist us in handling our darkest, basest fears and beliefs by doing the donkey work that we can’t stomach.
In a similar way to how most of us could not slaughter an animal ourselves but we’re happy to buy a sanitized lump of meat from the supermarket, we move through life using psychopathic politicians and establishment leaders to either do our thinking for us (“I always vote Labour”) or do our dirty work. Whether it is deporting asylum seekers, cutting benefits to the poorest people, denying climate change or renewing a doomsday weapon system, you’ll find a useful psychopath to do the nasty work for you, leaving you with your basest instincts semi-satisfied.